Red Light Collisions in Illinois
Drivers on the road should exercise care at all times, but statistically speaking, intersections are some of the most dangerous places for motorists throughout the country. In fact, the National Highway Transportation Safety Agency reports that 40 percent of all collisions occur at intersections, often at traffic lights. These type of intersection collisions have also come under more scrutiny by the Illinois media recently as a result of the proliferation of red light cameras. A recent study by the Chicago Tribune reported that red light cameras increase the number of accidents, and shift the types of collisions that occur at red lights.
Types of Red Light Collisions
Red light collisions can occur in one of two ways. First, a car that has a red light can end up driving into an intersection, either running the red light or in an attempt to make a right-hand turn. Then, that car could end up cutting off the traffic with the green light, resulting in a side-on collision. Second, the driver could be coming up to a light that is about to turn red. Either as a result of excessive speed or a lack of attention, the driver could end up stopping short or decelerating rapidly in an attempt to stop for the red light. This can result in rear-end collisions if the driver behind them is not paying attention.
Red light camera intersections have been a recent place where these two types of crashes have been compared. This is because the installation of the cameras has shifted the types of accidents that occur. Fewer people are running red lights, but more of them are stopping short. This change means a decrease in side-impact collisions, but an increase in rear-end collisions. While both types of accidents have the potential to be serious, on average side-impact collisions tend to cause more damage overall.
Liability for Red Light Collisions
Liability for red light collisions is similar to liability for ordinary traffic accidents. The court is looking for which driver negligently caused the accident. However, that can often be easier to figure out in red light collisions as a result of a legal doctrine called per se negligence. Ordinarily, the court attempts to determine negligence using the concept of a “duty of care.” The duty of care means that drivers must take reasonable precautions not to injure each other on the roads, and if they fail to do so, then they may be liable for the accidents that they cause. This can sometimes be a difficult standard to apply in practice because it hinges on determining which precautions were reasonable to take.
The doctrine of per se negligence solves the problem of defining reasonableness. Something is negligent per se when it was a violation of a traffic law designed for safety. In essence, the court assumes that traffic laws are the government’s decision on what precautions are definitely reasonable to take, such as stopping at a red light. Those bright line rules can make determining fault in these cases much easier.
If you or a loved one has been involved in a red light collision, contact an Elgin personal injury attorney today. The attorneys at Woodruff Johnson & Evans are here to help you get the full, fair compensation that you deserve.